Iran Digest: Week of October 23-30, 2015

Iran Digest

AIC’s Iran digest project covers the latest developments and news stories published in Iranian and international media outlets. This weekly digest is compiled by Communications Associates Alexander Benthem de Grave and Bradford Van Arnum.

Nuclear Deal

Ya'alon: Nuclear Deal Dispute Between Israel, U.S. is Over

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Wednesday that the dispute between Israel and the United States over the Iran nuclear deal is over.

“The Iran deal is [a] given,” Ya'alon said at a joint press conference in Washington with his U.S. counterpart, Ash Carter. “The disputes are over. Now we have to look to the future.”

Carter said the deal that was reached in July between Iran and six world powers removes the Islamic Republic's nuclear threat, calling it "one critical source of uncertainty and risk.” He added that he is under instruction from U.S. President Barack Obama to ensure the military option remains intact, in case Iran does not implement the agreement, and that the United States briefs Israel "from time to time" on this. (Haaretz)

International Relations

UN says Iran more open to human rights dialogue despite alarming execution rates

The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran has expressed “marginal optimism” that the regime is opening itself up to dialogue, while lamenting the country’s historically high level of executions and ongoing oppression of women, political dissidents and journalists.

Addressing his ninth report on Iranian human rights ahead of its publication on Monday, Ahmed Shaheed praised Tehran for responding more fully to his criticisms than at any time since he took up the role of in 2011. “I’m witnessing a greater desire on part of the government of Iran to engage with me and the UN system,” he said.

But Shaheed also described “very worrying signs that things aren’t improving and are actually getting worse in some aspects”. Top of the list of abuses were executions that are running at higher rates than at any time in almost three decades. (The Guardian)

Regional Politics

Saudi FM: Vienna talks to test if Iran serious on Syria


International talks in Vienna this week will test whether Russia and Iran are "serious" about finding a political solution to the war in Syria, the Saudi foreign minister has said.

Adel al-Jubeir's comments on Wednesday came after Iran announced it was accepting an invitation by the US and Russia to attend the talks in the Austrian capital. "If they're serious we will know, and if they're not serious we will also know and stop wasting time with them," Jubeir said at a news conference in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, with visiting British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

The two-day talks will also "test the intentions of the Syrians and the Russians," Jubeir said. The talks formally begin on Friday but US Secretary of State John Kerry was expected to meet some other participants later on Thursday. Nearly 20 nations have signalled that they will attend. (Al Jazeera)

Iran's generals are dying in Syria

Iran can no longer downplay its intervention in Syria’s civil war; there are too many public funerals these days. Two generals were killed in action this month. So was a senior bodyguard of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In recent weeks, senior Revolutionary Guards commanders—advertised as “military advisers”—have died on three separate fronts.

Iran has increasingly been forced to acknowledge its losses—including at least four generals in the past year—with some reports suggesting that twice that number have been killed since the intervention began. Brigadier General Hossein Hamedani, who was killed on October 8th, was given a state funeral. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, personally called on Hamedani’s family to convey his condolences. Khamenei’s official Twitter account, in English, lauded the general for fulfilling his “martyrdom wish.” (The New Yorker)

International Trade

Here's what will happen if Iran joins the WTO

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an international organization that governs trade among countries. While almost all countries are members, Iran has the largest economy of those that are not. Iran originally applied for WTO membership in 1996, but U.S. opposition prevented Iran from joining the institution.

Iran continued to seek admission, and in 2005, the United States allowed the process to move forward due to its desire to continue nuclear negotiations with Iran. Now that it has completed a nuclear deal with the international community, Iran is planning to join the WTO once sanctions are lifted.

WTO membership would require big changes, as Iran would need to cut tariffs and restructure its economy. However, Iran’s government has stated that WTO membership is a priority, as it wants to diversify its economy to raise living standards and employment. (The Washington Post)

Iran, Brazil to raise bilateral economic exchanges to $5bn

Iran's minister of economic affairs and finance says the Islamic Republic and Brazil have emphasized their firm resolve to increase the volume of bilateral trade to USD 5 billion a year.

Ali Tayyebnia made the remarks after a meeting with the visiting Brazilian Minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade Armando Monteiro in Tehran on Tuesday.

“According to agreements reached [between the two countries], we will do our best to increase the volume of economic exchanges between the two countries to five billion dollars a year,” he noted.

He mentioned developing banking and insurance relations between Tehran and Brasilia as top requisite for increasing bilateral trade volume to the projected level. (PressTV)

Inside Iran

Iranian-American businessman arrested in Iran

An Iranian-American businessman was arrested by Iranian security forces two weeks ago while he was visiting relatives in Tehran from his home base in Dubai, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The newspaper, citing people briefed on the situation, said Siamak Namazi, head of strategic planning at Crescent Petroleum Co, was arrested by the Revolutionary Guard's intelligence arm, which reports to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In recent weeks, Iranian business officials with ties to foreign companies had been held, interrogated and warned against wading into economic monopolies controlled by the Revolutionary Guard, the Journal said, quoting several businessman interviewed inside and outside Iran. (Reuters)

IMF sees 'significant improvement' in Iran's economy

The recent agreement between the P5+1 and Iran allows for the removal of most economic sanctions and for a significant improvement in Iran’s economic outlook, the International Monetary Fund said in its October report on regional economic outlook for Middle East and Central Asia.

The interim agreement reached with the P5+1 in November 2013, along with prudent domestic macroeconomic policies, provided considerable impetus to several sectors, most notably oil, transportation, and manufacturing. 

Real GDP grew by 3 percent in 2014/15 and 12-month inflation declined markedly, stabilizing at about 15 percent. However, economic spillovers to the rest of the world are uncertain but are likely to be a net positive, for two reasons. Iran’s return to the global oil market is expected to increase global supply of oil, and the removal of sanctions is likely to open new trade and investment opportunities. (Tehran Times)


Ripples of the Iran deal

By Roger Cohen

There was never any chance the Iran nuclear deal would be hermetic. One of its merits is to condemn the United States and Iran to a relationship, however hostile, over the next decade and a half at least. Now, within months, it has led to Iran’s presense at peace negotiations on Syria. That's a good thing.

It’s a good thing because no end to the Syrian civil war is possible without the involvement of all the actors. Iran is one, directly and through its surrogate Hezbollah. It’s a good thing because it demonstrates, once again, that defiant Iranian rhetoric is often a distraction from Iranian actions, which may be more pragmatic.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, had ruled out cooperation beyond the nuclear deal. The fact is neither Khamenei, a hard-liner, nor the reformists led by President Hassan Rouhani can ignore the other. Their respective power is in delicate equilibrium, an unusual situation in the 36-year history of the Islamic Republic and one the West must continue to probe.

Read the full article.